May 2nd, 2014 | by MATTHEW SINGER Music | Posted In: Commentary

R.I.P. Langano Lounge

On the eve of its final show, three regulars eulogize the Ethiopian restaurant turned basement music club—and the piece of Portland culture it represents.

langanoPhoto by Andy Chandler.

Langano Lounge, the basement bar beneath Jarra's Ethiopian Restaurant local musicians turned into an underground, experimental party spot, is throwing its final show ever tomorrow night, as the building is about to be torn down to make way for a new apartment complex. We asked three regulars to eulogize the place that, for a lot of old-school Portlanders, represents a part of Portland that is rapidly fading from existence. 

MIKE MCKINNON (Potato Champion)

It totally sucks that Langano is leaving us. I have had many amazing times there. It's hard for me to think of anything specific at the moment, I guess cause I've had so damn many fun times there. Potato Champion always has its employee parties there, and I threw parties there regularly. There was something about that place. A magic in the air that no other bar I have ever been too has. It always had the energy of a fun house party. No matter what, people would start dancing. I know this is probably what everyone is saying about it since everyone I know feels this way about the place too. I will say this though: The closing of Langano is an end to an amazing era. The place will be missed by all of us.  

 

TIM WENZEL (White Glove)

I've seen a lot of shows there over the years, a lot of them being projects or newly formed bands that were just starting and possibly not going too much further afterward. For me and a lot of my friends this was a place that felt like playing a show in a house basement but with a bar and bartender.

Also, this was kinda White Glove's "home base."  This is the type of venue that bands like us LOVED playing. Small room, free shows, easy to fill up, gritty, etc. The exact type of place that is not going to exist in this modern day Portland.   

I was driving back into Portland the other day, tripping on how much has changed here in such a short amount of time. Condos everywhere, buildings being torn down, road work everywhere, fancy SUVs roaming up and down the neighborhood I live in looking for that fancy restaurant that most of the people in my hood can't afford or would't go into even if we could. I was telling my wife how much all of this change sickens me because the Portland I've loved is disappearing. I told her that I'm going out to my parents for a week in Eastern Oregon to get away and to clear my mind, that I can't change anything and that I'm going to come back to town and not complain anymore and that I'm going to not worry about the changes, etc.  I parked the car and got a text message from Brian at Langano telling me, "Its gonna be torn down in three weeks. You guys wanna play the last show?" Instantly I was so fucking bummed and all the shit i was talking to my wife about just flew out the window, and I pictured a fancy ice cream store there with rich people lined up outside.

KRISTIN MCLAUGHLIN (DJ)

I had my first ever DJ night and residency at Langano (as DJ Sister Sister). Chelsea Morrisey, Zack Osterlund and I started a monthly called Mo DJs Mo Problems where we filled the previously unsaturated niche of playing nostalgic, throwback hip-hop and R&B. We always added guest DJs such as Aaron Hall of DAP (DJ Hanukkah Miracle), New Dads and Magic Fades to accompany us. The very first one was both a party for my half birthday and a celebration of Biggie Smalls' life, as the date it fell on was that of his death anniversary.  It was such a success we decided to do it every month. When the residency died off we continued to throw parties every year on March 9 as well as a myriad of other random parties. Establishing with Migzy (Megan McGuire), the manager, that we could bring in people, she entrusted us to use the space whenever we wanted to throw a party or a show. It became our go-to spot and before long people were coming to me for bookings and I would just ask the ever reliable Migzy if it was OK— which it always was. 

Adding to Langano's versatility and openness, Mikey Kampmann and I once did an uncomfortably strange comedy variety show there. After stumbling through a David Letterman and Paul Shaffer-esque dialogue we projected a Skype call with our friends in Onuinu who were on tour, allowing them to join in the party with us. 

One night we were even able to draw in some celebrity guests. After our buddies the Thermals played a show at Holocene with Mister Heavenly we corralled Michael Cera and Martin Starr to come back to Langano for Mike McKinnon and Mathew Quiet's monthly dance night, Verdis Quo. Michael Cera sat solemnly eating smelly Ethiopian food and Martin Starr joined the boys out in the street skateboarding down Hawthorne. It was a pretty big deal for us to get to hang with these cult idols. 

 

 Even though I now live in New York I flew back at the beginning of March this year to celebrate, for the last time, my fourth annual half birthday party with DJs Portia (Zack) and Drank Sinatra (Tyler Day). Migzy was gone and you could feel her absence but I filled the room with my nearest and dearest nonetheless and had a bangin', albeit blurry, party. 

When I think of all those late night dance parties at Langano, I think of excessive use of the smoke machine, dancing off pounds of sweat, dropping down to that nasty carpet to get my eagle on, hot summer nights out on the picnic tables, cuddle puddles on the couch in the back room, Big Buck Hunter and Pac-Man, the looping of VHS tapes on that tiny TV in the corner, trying desperately to catch just a sliver of myself in the heavily graffitied bathroom mirrors, the quick jaunt to the carts to mow on some crepes or fries to soak up the booze so that we could keep partying, criminally long waits to get a drink on a busy night and spilling out on the the sidewalk when Migzy finally switched the lights on and loitering there on the picnic tables for far too long. 

God, I just realized how much I'm gonna miss that place. 

MORE ON LANGANO LOUNGE FROM WILLAMETTE WEEK:

 
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